Last week, I visited a new friend that has been an expat for about 4 months in a country that is nothing like the one her family comes from.
When her husband accepted the position, they were promised life in a compound – a guarded and gated community with streets, and parks, and amenities that vary depending on your location.
The day before they left home to begin their expat lives, they were informed that there was a housing shortage in the area they were relocating to. (When it was conveniently too late to get their previous jobs back or easily jump back into the life they had.)
So they boarded the plane anyway. (Would you feel slightly trapped?)
And for the past four months the two of them and their young son have been sharing a two-room efficiency apartment. They have a love seat in their little kitchen and all three of them share a bedroom with their son’s toys. While their shipment of household items sits in storage.
Since their arrival they’ve been advised that it will probably take a year before they can be moved onto a compound, and presented with one alternative that gives them some immediate choices for housing but removes other benefits that they had counted on.
My friend’s situation is mild in comparison to her neighbors:
Several of them have more children so they’ve been given two apartments that don’t have a connecting door.
- So who sleeps where?
- Who watches the children and keeps them safe?
- How to parents get time for themselves?
- And how does everyone gather?
Her apartment has windows.
- Most do NOT.
(Did your stomach just churn? Mine did – as I imagined living without sunlight and some kind of view.)
Thankfully – There are some positives:
- The staff at the apartment building is very professional and kind.
- The building is clean and well kept.
- In spite of not having streets to walk, and parks to play in: They have a several pools, an outdoor playground, tennis courts, Jacuzzi, a store, a restaurant…
However, this is not what these families were promised when they agreed to move across the world, quit their jobs, sell their homes, pack their belongings, and leave families, friends and all that was familiar.
The truth is that the housing shortage is not mentioned by a majority of the recruiters – no matter what company they work for.
- They fear that if it is mentioned – less people will agree to come.
- And they won’t meet their objectives.
- And their bonuses and maybe even their jobs will be at risk.
So they make their numbers today with half-truths and lies and don’t think about how that impacts tomorrow.
As a result new employees instantly question their new employers integrity and feel less secure.
- What else they haven’t been told?
- And how far they should they lower their expectations to stay mentally healthy?
And in those cases where family members aren’t willing and/or able to make the best of what they’ve been given:
- Each one of them suffers.
- And their bonds with each other struggle and sometimes break.
There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy and civilization throughout the world – one thing which, if removed will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love. …That one thing is trust. ~Stephen M.R. Covey
It’s a sick reality that the company doesn’t care about the individuals in the family, or the strength of the family unit.
But they also fail to recognize that:
- They now have a many new-hires that are not so focused, productive or loyal.
- Each time they lie to their new hires, they set the precedent that integrity does not matter.
- The organization becomes unhealthier, harder to navigate, and less able respond to a changing environment. Eventually replacing growth with decline.
I am convinced that once organizational health is properly understood and placed into the right context it will surpass all other disciplines in business as the greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage. Really. ~Patrick Lencioni
At every level of the organization: Truth Matters
Meanwhile my new friend’s family, neighbors and the company that spun the truth? – They are all blessed to have her. As she is turning lemons into lemonade:
- Admitting that it has been a challenge.
- Speaking openly about the choices they’ve had to make about what to do next but choosing wisdom over fear.
- Choosing to reflect truth back to the organization that hired her husband without pouting or acting like a victim.
- Understanding the negativity of the other families in that apartment complex, and that it is not the fault of the staff in those buildings.
- Reflecting light and hope to the residents and the staff in that building.
If you are considering life as an expat be encouraged. Not all companies work this way. Some are towering examples of integrity.
- Do your research about local employment law and know if the laws will protect you.
- If not, knowing how ethical that company you agree to work for before you agree to come is critical. Use social media to connect to other current employees to find out about communication, security, medical questions, housing, school waiting lists, groceries…
- Consider the questions and concerns of everyone in your family.
- Pray about it.
- And then decide if the risks are worth the rewards.
We’re 2.5 years into our first expat adventure. I felt a lot of fear when we were asked to do this. But we followed the process above. There have been challenges, but the rewards have made it all worth it.
If you are a recruiter in this situation:
Is it time for you to be a candle or a beacon?
image credit: iStock